Idaho (9-12) at New Mexico State (15-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 7, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Pan American Center (12,482) -- Las Cruces, New Mexico. Television: AggiesVision, ESPN3. Home Record: Idaho 5-6, NMSU 10-1. Away Record: Idaho 4-5, NMSU 5-6. Neutral Record: Idaho 0-1, NMSU 0-1. Conference Record: Idaho 5-6, NMSU 9-2. Series Record: New Mexico State leads, 21-4.
GAME NOTES: The New Mexico State Aggies return home to the Pan American Center to put their nine-game winning streak on the line in a Western Athletic Conference bout against the Idaho Vandals.
The Aggies have a 21-4 all-time lead in the series with Idaho after winning the first game of the year, 71-70, Jan. 12 in Moscow, Idaho. The Vandals fell behind by 15 points by halftime before battling back to lose by a single point. New Mexico State had a 15-2 scoring advantage off turnovers and an 8-6 scoring edge off the bench.
The Vandals overcame a season-worst 36 percent shooting and a late rally by San Jose State to defeat the Spartans, 66-63, at the Cowan Spectrum. Idaho registered a season-best 10 rejections, converted 21-of-25 (.840) from the free- throw line and connected on nine 3-pointers, but gave up 21 offensive rebounds and 22 resulting second-chance points to the visiting Spartans, who nearly erased a lead that was as high as 15 points in the second stanza. Connor Hill tallied a team-high 19 points in the win, while Kyle Barone notched a double- double of 15 points and 12 boards.
Don Verlin's Vandals run their offense through Barone consistently. The 6- foot-10 senior center is producing 16.3 points and 9.7 rebounds per game as the team's centerpiece, while Stephen Madison chimes in with 14.8 ppg and Hill adds 11.7 ppg. The trio has helped Idaho to the Big West's highest field goal percentage (0.477) and second best 3-point field goal percentage (0.370). The Vandals are just barely outplaying their opposition as they possess a +0.6 average scoring margin.
At the moment the Aggies are tied with Denver for second place in the WAC standings, trailing only Louisiana Tech which has yet to be defeated by another member of the conference. Outside of the Bulldogs, NMSU is the hottest team in the conference with nine wins in a row after falling to Texas- Arlington and LaTech in its first two chapters of Big West action.
Sim Bhullar recorded his first career double-double with 17 points, 18 rebounds, and five blocks to propel NMSU to a 75-62 decision over Texas-San Antonio on Saturday. The Aggies were shorthanded for the matchup with multiple players relegated to the bench with either injuries or suspensions. Bandja Sy picked up the slack to tally 17 points and was three boards shy of his own double-double. Renaldo Dixon added 12 points and five blocks. Daniel Mullings finished the contest with just eight points on 3-of-8 shooting, but the sensational sophomore guard is not likely to keep quiet for long. Mullings is a very versatile player and he has improved drastically since his rookie season to contribute 14.5 ppg on 50.9 percent shooting from the field to go along with 5.5 rebounds and 2.2 steals per contest.
The Vandals proved to themselves they are capable of beating NMSU in the second half of their first meeting, but that task will become much more difficult on the road. The Aggies can keep their winning streak alive as long as they manage to limit Barone's impact somewhat.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: New Mexico State 68, Idaho 64
02/07 10:33:54 ET